Melbourne's newest live music, cabaret and comedy venue, the Brunswick Ballroom, riffs on the glory of the 1990s, when a dinner-and-show package fulfilled our social needs (think the former Continental Cafe on Greville Street, Prahran).
Now in the hands of food and beverage director Tori Bicknell, this northside establishment, formerly known as the Spotted Mallard, cranks it up to 11, delivering the goods on a bed-truck of '70s and '80s-themed cuisine.
There are bread trolleys doing the rounds during your dinner and show, with club sandwiches and saganaki soaked in ouzo, a dish that riffs on the venue's Greek heritage. Nothing screams mid-show finger food like hot buffalo wings served with celery sticks and blue cheese sauce, or warm pretzels dosed in parmesan and fresh lemon. A reinvented witlof salad makes the perfect encore, washed down perhaps with cocktails including the Ballroom Blitz (a blood orange spritz) or The Full Monty (Montenegro and mint)
The entertainment, however, is what everything else will revolve around. . "There's a piano on stage, an amazing staircase, a seated dining area in front of the stage where food and drink will be the focus – but it'll be timed delivery, won't interfere with the acts and will be classic-style service," says owner Andrew Kay. Upcoming artists include Tim Rogers, Kate Ceberano, and Melbourne International Comedy Festival acts.
"I didn't want to buy an old pub with a stage; I wanted the stage to be the focus here and make it aspirational for the Eartha Kitts of the world to want to come and play here too."
314 Sydney Road, Brunswick, brunswickballroom.com.au
The Brunswick Ballroom in Brunswick, Melbourne. Photo: Supplied
Other new-yet-nostalgic venues to check out
Cherry Bar owner James Young takes his rattle'n'roll westside to his latest Footscray live music venue (formerly the Reverence Hotel). Two band rooms amp the mood, while tacos, empanadas, nachos and cocktails grease the appetite.
28 Napier Street, Footscray, hotelwestwood.com.au
Retro pub grub where nostalgia comfort food rules and pets are welcome. Everything from oysters to cheeseburgers, a kid's menu and pink, orange and chilled reds sit alongside your classic tinnie too.
66A Gold Street, Collingwood, goldystavern.com.au
This tiny 1970s-inspired bar prides itself on its banana cream daiquiri. They serve spaghetti bolognese pies, beers, ciders, while cassettes and vinyl also make the cut.
173 Johnston Street, Collingwood, gumbar.com.au/